Daughters, Honor Your Mothers
- 2006 17 Jul
My mom, sisters, and I watched the movie together, all four of us huddled on the same couch. The Birds was Dad’s idea. He thought it would be funny to see us get scared, and he wasn’t disappointed.
Despite the nondescript title, we discovered that The Birds is not a National Geographic special on the treetop warbler. With 1960s-era special effects, this Hitchcock thriller remains a perfectly chilling tale of maniacal birds that conspire to attack human beings. They swarm schoolchildren, strike when least expected, and peck people to death with their bills. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it to say, it’s not happily ever after.
To this day, the sight of birds perched on a telephone wire still makes me wince and walk a little faster. I can’t quite convince myself that they aren’t secretly plotting my demise. Probably a mild case of ornithophobia—fear of birds (I had to look it up; so don’t be too impressed). But as scary as The Birds is, there are verses in Scripture I find even more frightening because they aren’t from a two-hour spectacle on my TV screen. These verses are deadly serious about God’s perspective on how I relate to my mom.
Most of us are familiar with the fifth of the Ten Commandments and the promise it contains: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12). But keep reading past Exodus, and you’ll find that there are some pretty severe consequences for the sons or daughters who dishonor their parents. A brief sampling is enough to make me shiver:
Leviticus 20:9: For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.
Proverbs 20:20: If one curses [or dishonors; it is the same word] his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
Proverbs 30:17: The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.
Not looking good for the disrespectful daughter, is it? But God is not finished yet. The Bible also says that when we fail to honor our moms, it’s as serious as dishonoring God Himself. Charles Bridges, author of a commentary on the book of Proverbs, explained, "The cursing of a parent was visited with the same punishment as the blaspheming of God; so near does the one sin approach to the other. The rebel against his parent is ready to ‘stretch out his hand against God’ himself. (Job 15:25)"1 These verses frighten me because I have been guilty of dishonoring my mom.
Dishonor comes in many different forms: from open defiance to sly disrespectful comments. For me, it was at some point in my teen years that I began to develop a haughty attitude toward Mom. I grew to think quite highly of my own abilities and opinions and not so highly of hers. I found fault with her clothing, her way of speaking, and the godly priorities of her life. My sin was small in my own eyes, but not in God’s. For even one of these "small," proud thoughts I deserve the full punishment of a dishonoring daughter.
I’m not what you would call subtle; so it wasn’t long before Mom perceived my disrespect (days, weeks maybe—I’m so glad it wasn’t much longer). She confronted my puffed-up thoughts and pointed out the arrogance and pride from which they sprang. She proved her mother’s love for me in spite of my insulting attitude toward her. And God used her kind response to produce sorrow and repentance in my heart.
To set the record straight: Ask anyone who knows my mom, and that person will confirm that I was mistaken in my thinking. Mom is clearly superior to me in every way—beauty, intelligence, gifting, and most importantly, godly character. (She wants me to take this sentence out, but I’m not listening.) But you know, sin distorts and mangles our view so that we no longer see things rightly. I certainly didn’t.
To this day I feel sorrow over how Mom must have felt when she uncovered the truth of my haughty attitude. No mother should ever have to experience disrespect from her daughter—least of all, my mother. But even more grievous is the fact that my dishonor was ultimately against God.
So what did it look like to begin honoring my mom? What does honor look like for all of us? Puritan pastor and author Matthew Henry wrote that honor is "an inward esteem . . . outwardly expressed upon all occasions."2 Honor begins in our hearts and our thoughts. It means that we cherish, esteem, and look up to the woman God has chosen to be our mom. Then we follow through on that attitude by showing respect through our words and our obedience. The scope of honor for our mothers, as the Bible describes it, is far reaching. It includes:
• Obedience while under her authority (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20).
• Dependence upon her wisdom and counsel (Prov. 6:20-23).
• Eagerness to receive her training and instruction, especially in the language of biblical womanhood (Titus 2:4-5).
• Dedication to serving her and meeting her practical needs (1 Tim. 5:4).
• Respect and esteem for her godly example (Prov. 31:28-31; Eph. 6:1).
• Pursuit of a God-glorifying lifestyle that brings her joy (Prov. 10:1; 15:20; 23:24-25).
• Encouragement and gratefulness for her sacrifice (Prov. 31:28-31).
(For those of you reading this whose mom is not a Christian or is an immature believer, honor will look different in your case. Though there are many things you can apply from this list, you are not to follow your mom into sin, condone her wrong behavior, or respect her ungodly lifestyle.)
Still not getting the picture of what it means to honor your mom? Well, try this. Stop and think of a person you really admire or wish you could be like. It’s probably the first person that popped into your head. Now what kind of thoughts do you have about this individual? Are they admiring thoughts? What kinds of things do you say to him or her (if you get a chance)? Are they flattering and encouraging, sweet and kind? And how do you act toward this person? Do you go out of your way to be around this person, to do things for him or her, to get him or her to like you? If so, you are honoring this individual. We all honor someone, don’t we? Well, God commands that we treat our moms this way. And if your mom is already the person you admire—way to go! Honoring your mom is one way to honor God Himself.
There are no "buts" to this command. We shouldn’t think we are the exception to this rule. The Bible doesn’t say, "Oh, by the way, if your mom isn’t cool, or if you don’t agree with her decisions, you can disregard this command." The requirement to honor our mothers applies to everyone, all the time, and for the rest of our lives.
God demands nothing less than perfect honor toward our moms. However, maybe you, like me, are guilty of dishonoring your mom, and ultimately God. And you, like me, realize you deserve the awful fate assigned to the dishonoring daughter. It is good for us to begin to comprehend the seriousness of our sin. However, we must not despair: God has provided a remedy for every girl who has dishonored her mother. He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth. Jesus lived a perfect life, including flawless honor of His mother. Yet He received the punishment from God for our dishonoring so that we could be forgiven. If we repent and trust in Him, we can be cleansed from our sin. And we can also have hope that, by His power at work in us, we can become young women who honor their moms.
By God’s grace the rewards of honor are more wonderful than the consequences of dishonor are scary. We are reminded in Ephesians 6:2-3 that the charge to honor our mother is "the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’"
The secret of the good life is right here in God’s Word: Honor your mom (and dad). Then it will go well with you, and you will receive the favor of God. Who would not want a long and happy life? I don’t know who, in their right mind, would turn down an offer like that. Sign me up!
This column is part of an ongoing series on Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. Last month's installment: A Mother's Discipline Should Point Daughters to God's Truth.
Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, and Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. During her more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one twelve-year-old son, Chad.
Nicole Mahaney Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk. Nicole and her husband, Steve, have one son, Jack.
Carolyn and her three daughters keep a weblog for women in all seasons of life, also entitled "Girl Talk."
This column was adapted for Crosswalk from Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood (Crossway 2005) by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre © 2005 (Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.gnpcb.org.)